the years that make us/the years that break us

I’ve always been enchanted by the start of a new year. I’m not a resolutions person, but I cherish the deep work of reflecting on the year behind us and basking in the possibility of what’s to come.

In trying to summarize 2019, I’ve worked to focus on the lessons in the grief, or to polish up the edges — but that’s not how this year has gone.

Some years, there’s really no boiling it down to joy or heartache, failure or victory. Some years, it’s just digging deep and summoning the strength. Some years you just get by.

I’ve written and rewritten this post several times over the past few weeks, and it turns out the year was too big for this post.

This hasn’t been a year for summaries or making a long story short. I can tell you about the lotus in the mud, but not without telling you about the mud.

So, we’ll start here, because you have to start somewhere.

This year, personally:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and came to terms with that… kind of. (To the extent that one can, when ‘powerlifter’ was such a big part of my identity.)

I turned 35 on the Oregon coast.

In the first of what would turn out to be many plot twists this year, I was asked (and agreed) to foster-adopt a baby born to a relative’s relative. I packed up and left Washington for mid-Michigan. Waited. Struggled. (I grew up in Michigan, and being there is energetically very hard for my spirit.)

My heart shattered when plans changed and the placement never happened. (I’ve been very careful about how I talk about this, because a lot of the story is not my story to tell.) The grief I experienced made me feel the loneliest I have ever felt. I can’t begin to articulate what it was like to have spent those months looking at pictures, growing to love her so deeply, and then learn that I’d never meet her. Or how strange it felt to have fully shifted my identity to being someone’s mom, and suddenly no longer be preparing to be a mom anymore.

I took solace at my sister’s place in Maine, and from there, decided to stay in Maine. I couldn’t bear to return to my life out west as though nothing had ever happened. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

R.T. listed our house in Tacoma. We lived apart for several months, during which I stayed at my sister’s homestead in the Kennebec Valley with our dogs. I managed to run my business despite unreliable rural internet and no cell service, which was no small feat. (I had to drive the 12 miles to town to upload files more than once!)

We went under contract on both our former and new houses on the same day. The house we bought here is in a tiny queer town with a population of about 2200 people. My sister calls it The Manifested House. It’s giant and weird and blue. We bought it from two artists who built it in the 80s and raised their children here. We love it so much, and it will be the perfect place to grow our family.

We did DIY home renovations with the help of my sister & dad, and hired our first contractor to replace windows in all six bedrooms. We got six chickens and a foster bunny.

We took trips to Detroit and Austin and Montreal. I took a late summer trip to the Seattle area. (That was a hard visit. There are about a thousand words on my heart about having left a place I love so dearly… I will write them. I miss my life and my friends there fiercely.)

In another plot twist – just as we began preparing to restart the adoption process, we learned I was pregnant.

(a personal note)

I haven’t found a way to say, “I unexpectedly got pregnant by someone other than my husband” that won’t make some of you clutch your pearls and/or hunger for drama or juicy details. But — being a person is complicated, and that’s what happened. And it was kind of a non-thing, honestly. R.T. and I are ready to be parents. I’m polyamorous, and have identified as such for about nine years – my relationship with R.T. has always been some style of non-monogamous/monogamish. My co-procreator is someone with whom I shared a significant, long-term connection. Our dynamic is complicated, but this baby was made with love.

I’m sharing this with you because raising my child with honesty and awareness is one of my core values. I don’t want them to grow up suspecting that there’s a shameful secret behind their existence. There is not. Baby Quinn is exceptionally loved and very, very wanted. There is more than one way to build a family. This is mine.

My pregnancy has been easy except when it wasn’t — I was never sick, but I bled the entire first trimester and then, midway through my second trimester, there were complications, and I was put on modified bed rest just before Thanksgiving. We were back and forth to providers and specialists and it was incredibly draining. (One of the trade-offs of living in rural Maine is that most of my doctor’s appointments take a solid half day with travel time.)

Happily, I was released from the high risk specialist just before Christmas. As I write this, I’ve just passed the 26 week mark, and I’m about to start my third trimester. The home stretch. Baby Quinn is developing perfectly and, at least for now, everything looks great. We’re counting up weeks and inching ever closer to meeting this new little love.

This year, professionally:

In July, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of starting my business. That’s really the only business-related milestone I have to share. There was so much else to navigate, and while I’m so, so fortunate that my business was able to sustain me/I was able to sustain my business, it was not a year for business growth. I’m okay with that, and grateful for the fact that sometimes my business is just a job, and I can show up and do good work and then get back to the life at hand.

My artwork was accepted into an art gallery for the first time, fulfilling a goal I set early this year, before the year took the course it did. It felt like an incredible feat. I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and look forward to devoting myself more fully to my art in the year to come.


There were a thousand reasons this year was hard. I don’t really do easy — I’m a bit addicted to chaos — but this year felt relentless. We just never had the chance to catch our breath before the next thing happened.

2019 required a lot of endurance. Our mental health suffered. Our income suffered. Our marriage did not suffer, and is instead perhaps the strongest it has ever been.

There’s been a lot of beauty in this year, too, and so much to be grateful for. My sister Bunny is definitely at the top of that list. I might have survived this year without her, but I can’t imagine it. She was my soft place to land time and time again. We live here in this quiet, rural part of Maine because of her, and it was absolutely the right decision.

If I had to live this year again, I would make a lot of decisions differently, and the outcome would be entirely different. There’s a lot I regret.

And yet. I believe that I’m exactly where I need to be. I probably would have ended up here regardless, through some other series of tumultuous events. I am happy to be here. I am healing. I am still learning.


So. On to 2020.

I’ll be back with more to share with you soon. We can talk about the adoption that wasn’t meant to be and the baby that was. I’ll tell you the story of the manifested house.

I want to be more intentional in noticing everyday magic, and sharing these little stories from small town life in Maine.
And not long from now, we’ll meet my son together.

Thanks for being here.

Happy new year. I hope the decade to come is the best one yet.

“Now I know what’s important: being charmed by my own life. Taking what is and making that the best that could happen. Trusting in my path. Trusting that keeping the magic alive in my life, keeping promises to myself, keeping my focus on the real and grounded things I want—that will lead me somewhere beautiful, somewhere I didn’t know I was going.”
– Jamie Varon

life lately: emerald city summer

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Hello, from a coffeeshop in Seattle on this cloudy & very cold July day. We’re having a very mild summer here in the PNW. (I’m trying not to complain.)

Anyway, I thought I’d pop in with a bit of a life update. It’s been awhile, hm? (Are we connected on Instagram, by the way?)

It’s been an exceptionally busy couple of months. R.T. and I had a very tumultuous move, but life has been pretty good since settling here. We’re finding our groove. I’m genuinely surprised by how much I’ve fallen in love with this city — if I’m honest, I felt a lot of resistance about moving here, so it’s been remarkable to instantly feel at home.

As usual, I’ve been hard at work on a number of projects for my clients at SixteenJuly — but in between, I’ve been exploring this city and the nature in and around it.

Here’s a short list of the other things I’ve been enjoying lately:

reading:

I recently read A House in the Sky – not exactly a beach read, and different than my usual lighthearted or self-help picks, but I would definitely recommend it. I juuuuust started Year of Yes – it’s enjoyable and funny so far. Will report back.

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wearing:

This dress, Birkenstocks (above), these jean shorts (on the rare days it’s warm enough to wear shorts here), a bunch of cute stuff that came from Stitch Fix this month. (It was a month where I kept everything. Love those.)

smitten with:

new bluetooth headphones – they’ve made my lifting routine woooorlds more enjoyable. I listened to 2.5 podcast episodes last time I was at the gym.

Related: I’m also really into bouldering lately. I joined a bouldering gym for their strength training area, but my membership comes with unlimited bouldering… I love it a lot more than I expected to. I got to boulder with Marie for an afternoon last month, when she and her partner stayed with us for a weekend. I’ll probably never be as skilled or graceful as she is, but it was fun & inspiring to climb with her.

I’m also really digging Wednesday coworking dates at Kat’s. (Her business is yoga for roller derby skaters, which is pretty rad.)

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indulging in:

self-care. June was super exhausting, and I’m trying to ease into an ease-filled July. Lots of rest. Listening to my body. I’m also off drinking, which shouldn’t feel indulgent, but I always sleep so terribly + struggle with anxiety when there’s booze in my life, so I’m actually enjoying having an excuse to not drink at all for awhile.

creating:

I’m just getting back into papercrafting (planner decorating & Project Life) as things start to settle down a bit. It’s been a long time since I carved that time out just to be fun & creative, and I’m really digging it.

listening to:

Music-wise, I’m really digging Theatrics by Puzzle Muteson. Still really into Modern Love the podcast. ‘Friends without Benefits’ was a recent favorite.

celebrating:

so many site launches! Liz! Squam! A facelift for Sas! Copperboom! Rachelle’s new site is just a day or two from launching – watch this space.

ALSO – my little business turns SEVEN in a couple of weeks. I’m pretty proud of that.

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looking forward to:

There are some big-to-me business changes happening this month and I’m really ready for those. (Blog post on the subject pending, in theory.) Also excited about some upcoming PNW adventures (like camping with R.T. for the first time), and for some travel to the mitten and back to the east coast in a couple of months.

life lately: springtime + seattlebound 

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Happy springtime, friends! I thought I would peek in with a little bit of a life update.

The first and most significant bit of news is that I’m moving to Seattle! I could probably write a whole post about this development, but I’ll try to keep this bite-sized.

As you know, R.T. and I have been living on opposite sides of the country for a little over a year now. We decided toward the end of last year that the goal was for him to join me here in the PNW. The plan was, of course, for him to move to Portland, potentially to resume working for me full-time. While we were rolling around options, his boss at his day job got wind of the whole thing and offered him a promotion + transfer to stay with the company. The closest the transfer could get him to Portland was Seattle. Close enough!

We gave some thought to continuing to maintain homes in both cities, but eventually decided to just get a place together there. I’ll still be back to Portland regularly (probably weekly), so this feels like a pretty moderate outcome, as far as potential solutions go. I’m really grateful that R.T. was willing to move west for me, even if we’re both compromising in some ways.

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We’ve already rented a lovely apartment in an area I’m excited to explore, and I can’t wait to have a home with R.T. and our creatures again. I’ll be flying out to NH in about a month to drive cross-country with the whole crew.

If you’re in Seattle, definitely reach out – we’ll get coffee. FYI: I’m going to scream if one more person says Seattle Freeze to me, so don’t bother. That’s a crap reputation to give a place, and I’m determined that this won’t be my experience. I have a number of friends & connections in the city, and I really think that, in moving to any new place, you get out of it what you put into it.

Anyway! On to the other details.


Lately I’ve been…

reading:

The Latte Years by Phillipa Moore. Loving it. // I’m still in the midst of reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I thought I was going to finish that on one plane trip, but I set it aside and haven’t gotten back into it yet.

listening to:

Modern Love the podcast – Episode 8 shattered me. I listened to it twice in one day.

While I write this, I’m listening to In the Altogether by The Sea The Sea.

wearing

wearing:

Black tee-shirts and jeans. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. I’ve sort of given up investing in my wardrobe until the lifting-related changes in my body level off a bit. (I’m anticipating that I’m just about there.) In the meantime, I’m buying the softest black tees I can find – The AE Soft & Sexy Favorite T-Shirt is indeed soft, sexy, and my current favorite t-shirt.

I’m sporting one of two pairs of shoes when the weather is nice: Cortona Flat and Sienna MJ in tortoise shell. On less-nice days, I wear the Bern baby Bern boots in a green color that doesn’t seem to be for sale anymore – I got mine secondhand, in what was maybe the greatest thrift store find of my life.

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smitten with:

springtime in the PNW. Everything is flowering in Portland. We’re starting to see some sunny days here and there. I’ve been really lucky that both of my recent visits to Seattle have had fantastic weather.

indulging in:

… well, I’ll tell you that I recently discovered that you can buy gummy stars at Whole Foods in the bulk bins. (I can’t be trusted with the bigger packages. I need to buy just a single serving.)

looking forward to:

R.T.’s visit later this week – he’s flying into Seattle and I’m meeting him there to do some exploring. Seeing Joanna Newsom perform here in Portland on the 28th. Visiting NH friends next month and getting to see R.T.’s band perform again before they part ways.

lately… {east coast summer}

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reading: Gather the People — Sarah Bray has been hugely influential to me as a small business owner (I worked for her years ago, and she taught me so much about running a business with integrity & heart), and I think this is one of the best things she’s ever done.

wearing: Tunics & skinny jeans, pretty much all the time on this visit to NH. Still digging Rockstars from Old Navy (though my favorite jeans are a pair I got from StitchFix). I also finally embraced the chambray trend, but I can’t decide if I dig it on me. I’ll post a photo sometime and you can all weigh in.

smitten with: Summer weather here in NH. I’m missing out on a pretty intense heat wave in PDX and I’m not sad about it. It’s alternately been sunny & 80ish here, or rainy + thunderstorms – both are pretty dreamy to me.

indulging in: lots of time with NH friends – movies, cocktails, coffee dates, hiking.

creating: a whole new vision for my business. Big things are coming this summer.

listening to: Tegan & Sara. On a super kick lately. No particular album, but I did create this playlist of a few of my favorites.

bragging about: setting up payroll. Not having to worry about setting money aside for taxes is making. my. life.

looking forward to: heading back to Portland in a few days, as bittersweet as that is. WDS is next week, and while I’m not attending (except for one class with Theresa Reed), I’m looking forward to being in town for the action & seeing friends, including Michelle.

lately… {junebug}

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reading: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. This is R.T.’s favorite book, and I’ve somehow made it four years into our relationship without reading it. I’m remedying that now, and I keep asking him to re-read certain stories so that we can talk about them. It’s pretty sweet, actually.

wearing: This tunic from Modcloth. Oh my word. I love it so much. (I just ordered two more.)

smitten with: camping! How did I make it 31 years without having this experience?

indulging in: Tiny pockets of fun amidst my insane work schedule this month. Nickel arcade, Jurassic World, the rose gardens, stand-up comedy, my little camping trip, drinks with friends.

creating: Weekly spreads in my Filofax. I really want to get back to art journaling and Project Life, but since time is limited, I’m getting joy out of the process of laying out my week every Sunday, and making little notes + additions throughout the week.

listening to: Bon Iver’s cover of I can’t make you love me. It’s on a playlist I’ve been listening to a lot, and I just really love it.

bragging about: Officially incorporating! My little biz and I are not legally the same entity anymore! This is only exciting to me, but man, it is really exciting. (I’m earning an actual paycheck again! That’s kind of rad.)

looking forward to: SEEING RANDALL! (Or, as you know him, R.T.) I fly back to NH on Thursday! I’ll be there until July 8th, soaking up some east coast summer & adventuring in the Whites. Yes.

The rose gardens

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Monday evening, Drake and I visited the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland. It was pretty marvelous.

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Bold move for someone who is allergic to… all nature? Something like that.

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This one was very tiny and cute. I think it was named after a pepper — jalepeno something?

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I’m trying to find an exact number on how many varieties are in the test gardens – I’m sure it’s in the hundreds. All of the different colors were amazing. I wish I’d photographed some of the purple varieties. I’ll definitely be returning this summer.


I’ve challenged myself to blog every day for 100 days. This post is day 35 of 100.

Lately… {i was made for sunny days}

Lately, I’ve been…

reading: Issue 3 of Mabel Magazine // My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart, which I picked up at Powell’s when R.T. was in town. It’s pretty brilliant.

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wearing: This denim jacket, which arrived in my last StitchFix, just as I was starting to covet a denim jacket. I love it SO. MUCH. It’s soft and just-stretchy-enough. The only bad thing about it is that it arrived just as it started to heat up in Portland.

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(This photo belongs to Liz)

smitten with: These prayer flags by Liz. So excited to hang these in my apartment. // Geometric earrings. I want all of these. I bought a pair similar to these at a shop near my building and I’ve been wearing them almost every day.

indulging in: Evenings on the roof deck. // Lots of time with new friends. // Whiskey. (I’m newly into it. It tastes like suffering, but in a really lovely way.)

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creating: Is it cheating to reference work here? Website designs, style guides, mood boards, the whole shebang. Work is pretty busy (and awesome) right now. I haven’t been doing much artsy-crafty stuff lately, though — but for all the right reasons. (New friends. Yoga. Bike rides. Hiking. This blog challenge… You get the idea.)

listening to: Podcasts. // Also, have I told you about my guilty-pleasure obsession with Meiko’s song Boys with Girlfriends? My love for this song is kind of hilarious, given the extent to which I don’t relate to the lyrics (at all).

bragging about: Hiring help to do all the things I’ve been winging the last few years. (A new CPA, a hair colorist, a lawyer, AND I have an appointment next week to hire a team of consultants to help with some changes to my business. AAAAH.)

looking forward to: Seeing The Weepies – TONIGHT!!!

CELEBRATING: Today is my dear friend Elise‘s birthday. She’s the gal who inspired me to to start this 100 Day Challenge — she inspires and motivates me in so many ways, and I’m so immensely grateful for her friendship. Psyched to see her when I visit NH in a few weeks, and to spend a few days with her in NOLA this fall. (I love you, buddy. Happiest birthday.)

lately… {ready for summer}

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Readying myself for a long weekend (though I’ll be working, because I’m still not feeling caught up after my time off earlier this month).

Lately, I’ve been…

reading: Creative Block, Apartment Therapy

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wearing: These new Keen wedges. A grey jersey top from Old Navy that doesn’t seem to exist on their website (sorry). I have to mention it because I bought two of them and it’s pretty much the only thing I wear lately.

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smitten with: Succulents. I can’t get enough. Plants in general, really. Maybe it’s not having any of my pets here with me in Portland, but I’m totally obsessed with having houseplants right now.

indulging in: Crepes. Iced hemp lattes. Afternoon bicycle rides. Treks in the woods with my friend Brenda.

creating: These blog posts! I made it through the first week! High five, me! Also, e-course materials (for clients’ courses). Really digging spending time in InDesign these days.

listening to: Spotify’s Acoustic Covers playlist. Pompeii by Bear’s Den. (Haunting)

bragging about: My building’s roof deck. Obviously.

looking forward to: The arrival of my next StitchFix. Camping with Brenda this summer. Flying back to NH next month to see R.T.

lately… (april showers & flowers)

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Back in NH for a few weeks. My time here is zipping by.

Lately, I’ve been…

reading:

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield (Truth: I’ve been reading both of these slowly for a long time. I’m not sure why they’re so slow-going for me, because they’re both excellent books.) I just started Torch, also by Cheryl Strayed. (I’m kind of a fangirl, can you tell?)

wearing:

Jersey dresses over jeans, pretty much always. (I have a whole bunch of these in various colors.) Infinity scarves. Keen Sisters MJ in Sienna. (I have a hard time with footwear for some reason — Keens are always a perfect fit, to the point that I don’t even want to bother with other brands anymore.)

smitten with:

Liz Lamoreux’s Soul Mantras. Buds on trees. Dad jokes.

indulging in:

Time with friends while I’m in New Hampshire. Also, dry hard cider. It’s my boozy drink of choice these days.

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making:

A new leather journal, based on the Midori traveler’s notebook. I dyed my leather blue. It holds five notebooks (my written journal, lists, notes, bullet journal, and art journal) plus various folders & pockets for storing stuff I want to keep handy (stickers, documents, etc). I love this thing. (It replaces my Filofax as, for the moment, I’m no longer using a weekly planner. Gasp.)

listening to:

‘The Tallest Building in Hell’ – Jared Mees & the Grown-up Children. Actually, all of their music, on repeat all the time. I bought one of their CDs at Tender Loving Empire on a whim one day in March, and I’m a little bit obsessed.

‘No Trouble’ by the weepies. So fucking pumped for the release of their new album! They are my most favorite of all time.

bragging about:

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my new tattoo!

looking forward to:

R.T.’s band’s show next week. (This is the second year they’ve played the Seacoast Roller Derby kickoff party!) Returning to Portland in early May. Road tripping across the country in my beat-up-but-trusty Honda Civic.


Want to keep up with my adventures? Let’s connect on Instagram.

Lately… (late fall edition!)

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Lately I’ve been…

drinking: Iced peppermint soy lattes. ‘Tis the season. (I never drink hot coffee.)

eating: A lot of coconut Chobani. Pumpkin Chobani is a nice treat as well. I’ve especially been enjoying it with a small amount of Lara cinnamon nut renola.

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reading: Yes Please by Amy Poehler, of course. Saga. (I’m not much of a comic person, but one of my best friends is, and he tells me what’s up. This one is great.)

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wearing: Lots of layers. Knit ponchos. LL Bean rubber mocs – so unsightly but so functional. (Does this make me a grown-up?) This shirt from Modcloth. This shirt by Lamixx on Etsy.

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digging: Lifting (heavy!) weights for the first time in my life. The new pixie lights in my studio. Spending Tuesday evenings working on personal projects with a small group of friends. (My friends Marina & Adam host and call them Tinker Tuesdays.)

indulging in: Slow starts on weekday mornings. Sunday brunches. Gilmore Girls. (I watched the whole series for the first time in under two months, and I kind of want to start again.)

listening to: My rights versus yours by The new Pornographers. New Lover by Josh Ritter. A lot of Taylor Swift. (Whatever. I never said I was cool.)

proud of: The year I’ve had. SO GOOD. I’ve accomplished so much. High five, me. (I’ll tell you more soon – I’ve learned so much this year about success, ease, ideal clients, earning potential, and running a business without BEING your business.)

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creating: Pages in my art journal. Constantly. So much happening there. I’m loving just spilling open there on a regular (almost daily) basis.

looking forward to: R.T.’s newly-renamed band‘s show on 12/13. The holidays with friends. The start of a fresh, new year. Upcoming trips to California and Hawaii in February.

To steal from Kathleen, I’ve been wildly productive and living the dream. 2014 has been amazing. So looking forward to journeying through 2015 with you.

PS. Michelle featured me on her blog today, if you’re interested in reading about how my Filofax helps me manage my life + business.